Bypass on the
town's proposed comprehensive plan
To bypass or not to bypass, that is the
Mayor James Hoover, a bypass around the historic town is not
just a good idea, it's soon to be absolutely essential.
Hoover and other leaders in the community cite the need for a bypass around
town limits due to massive residential development just north of the
Pennsylvania state line.
They argue Emmitsburg is already inundated with traffic cutting through the
small, one stop-light town to get from Pennsylvania communities to U.S. Route
Town manager David Haller told The Gazette last year that Emmitsburg has
only about 900 homes.
Now, a proposed development just across the state border including about
1,200 homes promises to provide nearly 12,000 car trips per day from that
community -- and many of those trips would be through Emmitsburg, according to
Emmitsburg town planner Michael Lucas.
Bill O'Neil, president of Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg, said
12,000 trips could be a low estimate, because he just learned from Lucas that
the proposed number of homes north of the town's border may increase
substantially. A representative of the Adams County, Pa., planning office said
an application has been received by that office for a 514-home community.
And Emmitsburg itself has approved 361 new homes that are yet to be built,
All of this proposed and approved development is why Hoover has asked Lucas
to place a bypass on the town's proposed comprehensive plan that will be
publicly discussed in town meetings in the coming months.
Hoover thinks the best idea for a bypass may be to cut from Md. Route 140
west of the town and run southeast to intersect with South Seton Avenue near
the U.S. Fire Academy.
O'Neil said that route is viable, though it would be greatly improved by
taking the bypass all the way out to Route 15 instead of dumping the traffic
onto South Seton Avenue. Even though it would require building a bridge to
cross the creek, he believes that route would move traffic directly to the
highway with little interruption.
But O'Neil also thinks the town should consider a northern bypass running
from Boyle Road near Tract Road east to Route 15.
"I really think [a bypass] is doable, and I think, at least from a lot of
the leaders in Emmitsburg, there's a real desire to get a bypass through," he
Regardless of which route the town may choose, reality hits when the price
tag comes up for discussion.
No one has an exact cost figure, but a traffic study to examine the problem
could cost up to $500,000, depending on the number of intersections and areas
examined, O'Neil said.
If the town decides on a southern route, funding for the bypass would have
to come from the county or Maryland. If a northern route is picked, it could be
possible to involve the federal government because the bypass would involve two
states -- Maryland and Pennsylvania, he said.
Hoover said he thinks Emmitsburg's town council will support the concept of
a bypass, and that's the first step. Funding will have to be pursued after the
town agrees a bypass is the answer and agrees on where to put it.
"I think currently... the [town] commissioners are very interested in some
form of bypass without them pinpointing it or giving directions on how or where
they would support this," he said, adding that no funding possibilities have
yet been discussed.
Thompson said funding is the biggest problem because the state hasn't been
funding bypasses and the county can't, due to lack of funding.
"If people are looking for county government to pay there won't be anyone to
drive [the bypasses] because no one could afford to live here and pay the taxes
for them," he said.
Lucas said he sees other problems with bypasses, such as drawing business
out of the center of town and creating a traffic problem in another location if
there are access points for commercial or residential development along the
Thompson said Westminster and Mount Airy are examples of towns with bypasses
that have led to problems. Westminster has traffic problems and Mount Airy is
currently seeking assistance to revitalize its downtown because commercial
activity has moved out to the bypass, he said.
And one reason Middletown hasn't gotten a bypass it has been seeking for
about 40 years is because the town couldn't agree on where to put it. That will
be a key first step for any effort to obtain a bypass in Emmitsburg, Thompson
For now, the issue is simply in the discussion phase. But Lucas said the
southern bypass option is being put on the comprehensive plan for upcoming
workshops and public hearings. All special hearings to discuss the
comprehensive plan will be announced in advance, he said.